President Barack Obama managed to provoke the ire of Republicans before he even unveiled his immigration reform plan this afternoon
The president is refusing to tie tougher border enforcement to his proposal that would allow 11million illegal immigrants to become American citizens.
Obama, who campaigned on giving undocumented immigrants ‘a pathway to citizenship,’ laid out his plan this afternoon, claiming it is similar to the one proposed on Monday by a bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate.
His proposal includes stepped up enforcement – like a new program to that would help businesses verify the immigration status of applicants before hiring them. The lynchpin, though, is a provision that would give illegal immigrants legal status if they register with the government, pay a fine and back taxes and learn English.
The president said Congress must also act to make legal immigration easier for highly-educated and highly-skilled foreigners who want to settle in the United States.
‘We need congress to act on the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country right now,’ he said.
Later he added: ‘Remember that this is not just a debate about policy, it’s about people. It’s about men, women,’ the president said. ‘They want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story.’
The battle-hardened Obama, anticipating a fight with House Republicans, said that if lawmakers did not act quickly, he would introduce his plan to Congress and demand an ‘up or down’ vote on it.
‘The foundation for bipartisan action is already in place,’ he said.
The president said that a bipartisan coalition of senators, including Tea Party conservatives Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona, as well as Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois, had agreed on a package similar to his own.
Both packages include increased border enforcement and a system that will force businesses to determine whether they are hiring legal residents.
Both include a ‘pathway to citizenship’ that forces immigrants to pay back taxes, a fine and ‘go to the back of the line’ behind legal immigrants before they can become American citizens.
Obama’s plan also includes provisions to allow higher numbers of highly-skilled legal immigrants to move to the country if they study at American universities or plan to start businesses in the United States.
A second group of U.S. Senators has proposed similar measures.
However, Rubio told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday that he would not back a pathway to citizenship like the one Obama described without tougher border enforcement mechanisms in place.
‘If there is not language in this bill that guarantees nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it,’ Rubio told Limbaugh in a direct appeal to his base.
Under the Senate agreement, a group of border-state law enforcement officials and policymakers will have to certify that border security has been tightened.
Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security must develop a better exit control system to track foreign visitors and ensure the country knows which ones have overstayed their temporary visas.
Rubio said he would refuse to support any bill those does not include those ‘triggers.’
‘I think that would be a terrible mistake,’ he told Fox News. ‘We have a bipartisan group of senators that have agreed to that. For the president to try to move the goalposts on that specific requirement, as an example, does not bode well in terms of what his role’s going to be in this or the outcome.’
Support from Rubio, a rising star in the Republican party and a late signatory to the Senate deal, is seen as one of the keys to convincing conservatives in the U.S. House to pass the legislation.
Despite possible obstacles to come, the broad agreement between the White House and bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate represents a drastic shift in Washington’s willingness to tackle immigration, an issue that has languished for years. Much of that shift is politically motivated, due to the growing influence of Hispanics in presidential and other elections and their overwhelming support for Obama in November.
Another key difference between the White House and Senate proposals is the administration’s plan to allow same-sex partners to seek visas under the same rules that govern other family immigration. The Senate principles do not recognize same-sex partners, though Democratic lawmakers have told gay rights groups that they could seek to include that in a final bill.
John McCain of Arizona, who is among the eight in the Senate immigration group, called the issue a ‘red flag’ in an interview Tuesday on ‘CBS This Morning.’
Washington last took up immigration changes in a serious way in 2007, when then-President George W. Bush pressed for an overhaul. The initial efforts had bipartisan support but eventually collapsed in the Senate because of a lack of GOP support.
Cognizant of that failed effort, the White House has readied its own immigration legislation. But officials said Obama will send it to the Hill only if the Senate process stalls
Source: The Daily Mail